#StopStalkerAds: adtech is watching you!

Following our open letter to the European Parliament, Open Rights Group are launching a new campaign that wants to #StopStalkerAds. Our initiative, run in conjunction with Civil Liberties Union for Europe and the Panoptykon Foundation, wants to make sure that the European Parliament advances new legislation that effectively cracks down on illegal advertising and online tracking.

But wasn’t the GDPR already meant to protect our privacy? And are we being stalked by adtech companies online?

Yes, Adtech is stalking you

Would you ever agree to have your phone recorded and your private conversations shared with thousands of shady companies driven by untold motives? And why should it be any different for the websites you visit, the things you watch, and the information you look for on the Internet?

The bad news for you is, adtech never asked your permission but they are watching you anyway. To make sure that nobody gets in their way, they clogged the Internet with online trackers that are hidden in website plugins, social media buttons, videos, web fonts, software development kits and other stuff. This the case of many government and no-profit websites, that may end up sharing your addictions, disabilities, or financial difficulties because of a social media share button or a youtube video that appears on their website. Or it could be the case of mobile developers that inadvertedly included Facebook login or another kind of adtech spyware in your shiny sudoku app. 

The adtech industry reassures us that they are spying on you for philanthropic purposes, as well as to serve you with relevant ads. This is why they target mothers who just had stillbirth with baby ads, or serial gamblers who are trying to quit with gambling ads, or they keep it simple and creep people out. In essence, adtech is stalking you — that is, following and watching somebody over a long period of time in a way that is annoying or frightening.

ePrivacy to the rescue

The General Data Protection Regulation, as the name may suggest, sets forth general obligations that every organisation has to comply with when processing our personal information — from your local cricket club to large technology companies and Government agencies. In doing so, the GDPR keeps it simple and flexible, leaving the task to clarify how these requirements apply in practice to data protection authorities and Courts.

The importance of the ePrivacy Regulation can be fully appreciated if you consider that Adtech companies are using their formidable financial resources to buy time for themselves and keep debating about the legal interpretation of their illegal behaviours. The ePrivacy Regulation could effectively put an end to this show, in particular by

  • making it clear that online tracking is never allowed without consent, for any reason;
  • banning cookie walls, and prohibiting websites to deny you access if you don’t consent to online tracking;
  • allowing you to express legally binding choices in software settings that are designed to put users in control of their data, as opposed to cookie banners that are designed to deceive you and put adtech companies in control of our data.

MEPs must act now

These rules would effectively close many of the loopholes that adtech companies have been relying upon to escape liability and slow down data protection enforcement. Unfortunately, industry lobby mounted an extensive smearing campaign against it, which resulted in its approval being slowed down and these rules being watered down by the Council of the EU

Fortunately, the debate has now moved to trilogue negotiations, where the European Parliament can weigh in and reverse much of the damages that were done by the Council of the EU. If you are an EU citizen you can join the campaign and make sure that your representatives will #StopStalkerAds.

Take action

To our supporters in the EU, use our tool now to tell your MEPs to #StopStalkerAds!

Tweet your MEPs!